Chronic Pain: One Day At a Time

Over the years of pain, surgeries, bandits, house burning down, and other life-exploding things, I have lost count of how many times I’ve been told, “Oh, honey, you just need to take it one day at a time.”  To which I would normally nod and smile and squeak out a, “thank you, that’s so true”, while thinking, “What do you know about it, you crazy bat?”.

I get the sentiment.  You can’t think about tomorrow, do anything about tomorrow, figure out what tomorrow will be, and it’s better to try to focus on now and do your very best, and before you know it life will get better and on, and on, and on. 

By nature, I’m a planner.  I really like my calendar.  And, my to do list.  And, my post-it note wall of long-term plans and goals.  So, being told to take it a day at a time is pretty annoying.

However, somewhere in the middle of the last bout of mind-blowing pain, I finally figured it out. 

The preventive drugs I’m on make me a little silly/dim-witted/slow/airheaded.  Seriously, I am one set of fake nails and a pink track suit away from becoming Ding-Bat Barbie.  For instance, I recently lost my keys, in my car, for fifteen minutes.  No joke.  I have to apologize to people for losing my train of thought, losing my shoes, forgetting to brush my teeth, and one bad day, forgetting to change out of my jammie pants.  So, that whole planning thing I like so much?  Totally gone.  If someone asks me about next week, I deer-in-headlights-freeze, and mumble something incoherent about my calendar and write on my hand to call the person later when I can think again. 

Another clog in my planning brain is that I never know what tomorrow is going to be pain-wise.  I’ve had two blessedly pain-free days.  But, tomorrow could be an 9.  Which would rock if I were a gymnast, but since the pain scale is upside down, a 9 is one number away from a strait-jacket and hospitals.

(Excuse me while I take a moment to remember what in the world I’m talking about…)

With my more recent cycle of pain, I’ve learned that taking it one day at a time is not annoying, or trite, or dumb, it’s just life.  It’s how I have to operate.  And, instead of laying on the floor whining about it, I’m trying to adjust expectations for myself.

I wake up every morning around 6:15 and before my eyeballs have lost the horrible dry feeling, I take stock.  What hurts?  How bad?  The answer to how I feel is pretty much always going to be “deathbutworse” until I get my coffee in me, but even before that, I can tell how the day is going to shape up.  I work out, read my bible, and then sit with my to do list.  One day this week, my to do list got to fill up an entire page.  But, there was a day last week when “rest” was the only thing I wrote down.  The key is, since I don’t plan anything for my day before I find out how the day is going to be, I can’t fail by not getting everything done for that day.  

Maybe nothing I’ve said has resonated with you so far.  But, I have a feeling that the second half of taking it one day at a time might hit you somewhere.  It is probably even more important than not setting too much to do in a day.  And that is, I’ve learned to let go.

I’ve let go of my to do list.

I’ve let go of my anger at having bad days, because I had so much to DO today!

I’ve let go of my guilt when I have a bad day.  A bad day could be more than pain, too.  It’s being cranky with people I love, being too tired or lazy or annoyed to get over myself and to serve other people, it’s the days when I’ve felt like a failure as a mom.  I no longer allow myself to carry that guilt and sorrow with me into the next day.

I’ve let go of worrying about tomorrow and what kind of pain it will bring. 

It’s clinging to the part of the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness, “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow”.  It’s obeying the commands to not worry, not fret, not be the annoying person who is like a dripping faucet. It’s remembering that the burden of pain is not too great for Christ to bear and that there is great healing to be found in Him!

The weirdest thing yet (in a bundle of oddities about me) is that I’ve actually started to be thankful for my pain.  Not that I wouldn’t give it up in a heartbeat.  Maybe more precisely, I’m thankful for what I’ve allowed God to do through my pain.  I’m thankful that I’m not giving myself more to do than I’m able and to let go of all the hurts and frustrations.  I’m at peace, I’m more joyful, I’m more open to what needs to happen in my life.

If you are hurting physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or you feel like life is so broken you can’t figure out how it will ever be repaired, take it from someone who gets it.  Taking it one day at a time doesn’t have to be something we just brush off from the well-meaning person, it’s something we can do and live and be joyful about!

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7 Responses to Chronic Pain: One Day At a Time

  1. bethany says:

    I love this. I know that in our weakest seasons, God’s glory does shine through and people see strong, and learn to be strong like you as well.

    A woman who has gone through a lot over the last 10 years….tons, I won’t even go into it. I’ve asked her how she can be so filled with joy, and so trusting no matter what. ” I am on the five minute plan” she answers. “I just give five minutes to God at a time, if not I fall apart and can’t see joy in anything”. I should write that on my forehead.

    I am so blessed by your post.

  2. Carol says:

    Mary, actually brings tears to my eyes! While I don’t have your struggles, I do have my own and what you said really resonates. Thank you for taking the time to share and be so open.

  3. Dyann says:

    Yay for sage advice from crazy bats and yay for you!!!

  4. Tina says:

    I can so relate to you I make lists that I try to get through, but those days when you can’t get out of bed because your in so much pain and that’s with medication, your list have to change on those days and there are quite a few right now my lists are the things I’m grateful for and to try my hardest to focus on those things a higher power that I know is there and will never leave me, friends who care about me and make sure I eat and I’m still breathing. I have family who love me a grandson who is the light of my life and I know that this will pass and I can work on my other lists again maybe not today or tomorrow but soon, everything does pass and my attitude is what I need to keep on whatever list I’m working on. Thank you I forget there are other people out there that know how I feel and what I deal with on a daily basis. My friend emailed you post to me and I’m glad she did Thank you

  5. pbus1 says:

    I have been suffering from a chronically painful, neurological syndrome (RSD) for 8 years and a few months now. It has totally turned my world upside down, and inside out! Like you, I learned quite a while ago, that I had no choice other than to take it one day at a time. I would not handle the things I endure, had it not been for the Lord who was on my side! Thank you for sharing this encouraging message!

    God bless.

    Paulette

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